Maryland v. King,
569 U.S. ___ (2013)

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  • Syllabus  | 
  • Opinion (Anthony M. Kennedy)  | 
  • Dissent (Antonin Scalia)

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.



No. 12–207



on writ of certiorari to the court of appeals of maryland

[June 3, 2013]

     Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

     In 2003 a man concealing his face and armed with a gun broke into a woman’s home in Salisbury, Maryland. He raped her. The police were unable to identify or apprehend the assailant based on any detailed description or other evidence they then had, but they did obtain from the victim a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA.

     In 2009 Alonzo King was arrested in Wicomico County, Maryland, and charged with first- and second-degree assault for menacing a group of people with a shotgun. As part of a routine booking procedure for serious offenses, his DNA sample was taken by applying a cotton swab or filter paper—known as a buccal swab—to the inside of his cheeks. The DNA was found to match the DNA taken from the Salisbury rape victim. King was tried and convicted for the rape. Additional DNA samples were taken from him and used in the rape trial, but there seems to be no doubt that it was the DNA from the cheek sample taken at the time he was booked in 2009 that led to his first having been linked to the rape and charged with its commission.

     The Court of Appeals of Maryland, on review of King’s rape conviction, ruled that the DNA taken when King was booked for the 2009 charge was an unlawful seizure because obtaining and using the cheek swab was an unreasonable search of the person. It set the rape conviction aside. This Court granted certiorari and now reverses the judgment of the Maryland court.


     When King was arrested on April 10, 2009, for menac-ing a group of people with a shotgun and charged in state court with both first- and second-degree assault, he was processed for detention in custody at the Wicomico County Central Booking facility. Booking personnel used a cheek swab to take the DNA sample from him pursuant to provisions of the Maryland DNA Collection Act (or Act).

     On July 13, 2009, King’s DNA record was uploaded to the Maryland DNA database, and three weeks later, on August 4, 2009, his DNA profile was matched to the DNA sample collected in the unsolved 2003 rape case. Once the DNA was matched to King, detectives presented the forensic evidence to a grand jury, which indicted him for the rape. Detectives obtained a search warrant and took a second sample of DNA from King, which again matched the evidence from the rape. He moved to suppress the DNA match on the grounds that Maryland’s DNA collection law violated the Fourth Amendment. The Circuit Court Judge upheld the statute as constitutional. King pleaded not guilty to the rape charges but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

     In a divided opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals struck down the portions of the Act authorizing collection of DNA from felony arrestees as unconstitutional. The majority concluded that a DNA swab was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment because King’s “expectation of privacy is greater than the State’s purported interest in using King’s DNA to identify him.” 425 Md. 550, 561, 42 A. 3d 549, 556 (2012). In reach- ing that conclusion the Maryland Court relied on the deci-sions of various other courts that have concluded that DNA identification of arrestees is impermissible. See, e.g., People v. Buza, 129 Cal. Rptr. 3d 753 (App. 2011) (offi-cially depublished); Mario W. v. Kaipio, 228 Ariz. 207, 265 P. 3d 389 (App. 2011).

     Both federal and state courts have reached differing conclusions as to whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits the collection and analysis of a DNA sample from persons arrested, but not yet convicted, on felony charges. This Court granted certiorari, 568 U. S. ___ (2012), to address the question. King is the respondent here.


     The advent of DNA technology is one of the most significant scientific advancements of our era. The full potential for use of genetic markers in medicine and science is still being explored, but the utility of DNA identification in the criminal justice system is already undisputed. Since the first use of forensic DNA analysis to catch a rapist and murderer in England in 1986, see J. Butler, Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing 5 (2009) (hereinafter Butler), law enforcement, the defense bar, and the courts have acknowledged DNA testing’s “unparalleled ability both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty. It has the potential to significantly improve both the criminal justice system and police investigative practices.” District Attorney’s Office for Third Judicial Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U. S. 52, 55 (2009) .


     The current standard for forensic DNA testing relies on an analysis of the chromosomes located within the nucleus of all human cells. “The DNA material in chromosomes is composed of ‘coding’ and ‘noncoding’ regions. The coding regions are known as genes and contain the information necessary for a cell to make proteins. . . . Non-protein-coding regions . . . are not related directly to making proteins, [and] have been referred to as ‘junk’ DNA.” Butler 25. The adjective “junk” may mislead the layperson, for in fact this is the DNA region used with near certainty to identify a person. The term apparently is intended to indicate that this particular noncoding region, while useful and even dispositive for purposes like identity, does not show more far-reaching and complex characteristics like genetic traits.

     Many of the patterns found in DNA are shared among all people, so forensic analysis focuses on “repeated DNA sequences scattered throughout the human genome,” known as “short tandem repeats” (STRs). Id., at 147–148. The alternative possibilities for the size and frequency of these STRs at any given point along a strand of DNA are known as “alleles,” id., at 25; and multiple alleles are analyzed in order to ensure that a DNA profile matches only one individual. Future refinements may improve pres- ent technology, but even now STR analysis makes it “possible to determine whether a biological tissue matches a suspect with near certainty.” Osborne, supra, at 62.

     The Act authorizes Maryland law enforcement author-ities to collect DNA samples from “an individual who is charged with . . . a crime of violence or an attempt to commit a crime of violence; or . . . burglary or an attempt to commit burglary.” Md. Pub. Saf. Code Ann. §2–504(a)(3)(i) (Lexis 2011). Maryland law defines a crime of violence to include murder, rape, first-degree assault, kidnaping, arson, sexual assault, and a variety of other serious crimes. Md. Crim. Law Code Ann. §14–101 (Lexis 2012). Once taken, a DNA sample may not be processed or placed in a database before the individual is arraigned (unless the individual consents). Md. Pub. Saf. Code Ann. §2–504(d)(1) (Lexis 2011). It is at this point that a judicial officer ensures that there is probable cause to detain the arrestee on a qualifying serious offense. If “all qualifying criminal charges are determined to be unsupported by probable cause . . . the DNA sample shall be immediately destroyed.” §2–504(d)(2)(i). DNA samples are also destroyed if “a criminal action begun against the individual . . . does not result in a conviction,” “the conviction is finally reversed or vacated and no new trial is permitted,” or “the individual is granted an unconditional pardon.” §2–511(a)(1).

     The Act also limits the information added to a DNA database and how it may be used. Specifically, “[o]nly DNA records that directly relate to the identification of individuals shall be collected and stored.” §2–505(b)(1). No purpose other than identification is permissible: “A person may not willfully test a DNA sample for information that does not relate to the identification of indi-viduals as specified in this subtitle.” §2–512(c). Tests for familial matches are also prohibited. See §2–506(d) (“A person may not perform a search of the statewide DNA data base for the purpose of identification of an offender in connection with a crime for which the offender may be a biological relative of the individual from whom the DNA sample was acquired”). The officers involved in taking and analyzing respondent’s DNA sample complied with the Act in all respects.

     Respondent’s DNA was collected in this case using a common procedure known as a “buccal swab.” “Buccal cell collection involves wiping a small piece of filter paper or a cotton swab similar to a Q-tip against the inside cheek of an individual’s mouth to collect some skin cells.” Butler 86. The procedure is quick and painless. The swab touches inside an arrestee’s mouth, but it requires no “surgical intrusio[n] beneath the skin,” Winston v. Lee, 470 U. S. 753, 760 (1985) , and it poses no “threa[t] to the health or safety” of arrestees, id., at 763.


     Respondent’s identification as the rapist resulted in part through the operation of a national project to standardize collection and storage of DNA profiles. Authorized by Congress and supervised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) connects DNA laboratories at the local, state, and national level. Since its authorization in 1994, the CODIS system has grown to include all 50 States and a number of federal agencies. CODIS collects DNA profiles provided by local laboratories taken from arrestees, convicted offenders, and forensic evidence found at crime scenes. To participate in CODIS, a local laboratory must sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to adhere to quality standards and submit to audits to evaluate compliance with the federal standards for scientifically rigorous DNA testing. Butler 270.

     One of the most significant aspects of CODIS is the standardization of the points of comparison in DNA analysis. The CODIS database is based on 13 loci at which the STR alleles are noted and compared. These loci make possible extreme accuracy in matching individual samples, with a “random match probability of approximately 1 in 100 trillion (assuming unrelated individuals).” Ibid. The CODIS loci are from the non-protein coding junk regions of DNA, and “are not known to have any association with a genetic disease or any other genetic predisposition. Thus, the information in the database is only useful for human identity testing.” Id., at 279. STR information is recorded only as a “string of numbers”; and the DNA identification is accompanied only by information denoting the laboratory and the analyst responsible for the submission. Id., at 270. In short, CODIS sets uniform national standards for DNA matching and then facilitates connections between local law enforcement agencies who can share more specific information about matched STR profiles.

     All 50 States require the collection of DNA from felony convicts, and respondent does not dispute the validity of that practice. See Brief for Respondent 48. Twenty-eight States and the Federal Government have adopted laws similar to the Maryland Act authorizing the collection of DNA from some or all arrestees. See Brief for State of California et al. as Amici Curiae 4, n. 1 (States Brief) (collecting state statutes). Although those statutes vary in their particulars, such as what charges require a DNA sample, their similarity means that this case implicates more than the specific Maryland law. At issue is a standard, expanding technology already in widespread use throughout the Nation.



     Although the DNA swab procedure used here presents a question the Court has not yet addressed, the framework for deciding the issue is well established. The Fourth Amendment, binding on the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” It can be agreed that using a buccal swab on the inner tissues of a person’s cheek in order to obtain DNA samples is a search. Virtually any “intrusio[n] into the human body,” Schmerber v. California, 384 U. S. 757, 770 (1966) , will work an invasion of “ ‘cherished personal security’ that is subject to constitutional scrutiny,” Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U. S. 291, 295 (1973) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 –25 (1968)). The Court has applied the Fourth Amendment to police efforts to draw blood, see Schmerber, supra; Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U. S. ___ (2013), scraping an arrestee’s fingernails to obtain trace evidence, see Cupp, supra, and even to “a breathalyzer test, which generally requires the production of alveolar or ‘deep lung’ breath for chemical analysis,” Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives’ Assn., 489 U. S. 602, 616 (1989) .

     A buccal swab is a far more gentle process than a venipuncture to draw blood. It involves but a light touch on the inside of the cheek; and although it can be deemed a search within the body of the arrestee, it requires no “surgical intrusions beneath the skin.” Winston, 470 U. S., at 760. The fact than an intrusion is negligible is of central relevance to determining reasonableness, although it is still a search as the law defines that term.


     To say that the Fourth Amendment applies here is the beginning point, not the end of the analysis. “[T]he Fourth Amendment’s proper function is to constrain, not against all intrusions as such, but against intrusions which are not justified in the circumstances, or which are made in an improper manner.” Schmerber, supra, at 768. “As the text of the Fourth Amendment indicates, the ultimate measure of the constitutionality of a governmental search is ‘reasonableness.’ ” Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U. S. 646, 652 (1995) . In giving content to the inquiry whether an intrusion is reasonable, the Court has preferred “some quantum of individualized suspicion . . . [as] a prerequisite to a constitutional search or seizure. But the Fourth Amendment imposes no irreducible requirement of such suspicion.” United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U. S. 543 –561 (1976) (citation and footnote omitted).

     In some circumstances, such as “[w]hen faced with special law enforcement needs, diminished expectations of privacy, minimal intrusions, or the like, the Court has found that certain general, or individual, circumstances may render a warrantless search or seizure reasonable.” Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U. S. 326, 330 (2001) . Those circumstances diminish the need for a warrant, either because “the public interest is such that neither a warrant nor probable cause is required,” Maryland v. Buie, 494 U. S. 325, 331 (1990) , or because an individual is already on notice, for instance because of his employment, see Skinner, supra, or the conditions of his release from government custody, see Samson v. California, 547 U. S. 843 (2006) , that some reasonable police intrusion on his pri-vacy is to be expected. The need for a warrant is perhaps least when the search involves no discretion that could properly be limited by the “interpo[lation of] a neutral magistrate between the citizen and the law enforcement officer.” Treasury Employees v. Von Raab, 489 U. S. 656, 667 (1989) .

     The instant case can be addressed with this background. The Maryland DNA Collection Act provides that, in order to obtain a DNA sample, all arrestees charged with serious crimes must furnish the sample on a buccal swab applied, as noted, to the inside of the cheeks. The arrestee is already in valid police custody for a serious offense supported by probable cause. The DNA collection is not subject to the judgment of officers whose perspective might be “colored by their primary involvement in ‘the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.’ ” Terry, supra, at 12 (quoting Johnson v. United States, 333 U. S. 10, 14 (1948) ). As noted by this Court in a different but still instructive context involving blood testing, “[b]oth the circumstances justifying toxicological testing and the permissible limits of such intrusions are defined nar- rowly and specifically in the regulations that authorize them . . . . Indeed, in light of the standardized nature of the tests and the minimal discretion vested in those charged with administering the program, there are virtually no facts for a neutral magistrate to evaluate.” Skinner, supra, at 622. Here, the search effected by the buccal swab of respondent falls within the category of cases this Court has analyzed by reference to the proposition that the “touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness, not individualized suspicion.” Samson, supra, at 855, n. 4.

     Even if a warrant is not required, a search is not beyond Fourth Amendment scrutiny; for it must be reasonable in its scope and manner of execution. Urgent government interests are not a license for indiscriminate police behavior. To say that no warrant is required is merely to acknowledge that “rather than employing a per se rule of unreasonableness, we balance the privacy-related and law enforcement-related concerns to determine if the intrusion was reasonable.” McArthur, supra, at 331. This application of “traditional standards of reasonableness” requires a court to weigh “the promotion of legitimate governmen- tal interests” against “the degree to which [the search] intrudes upon an individual’s privacy.” Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U. S. 295, 300 (1999) . An assessment of reasonableness to determine the lawfulness of requiring this class of arrestees to provide a DNA sample is central to the instant case.



     The legitimate government interest served by the Maryland DNA Collection Act is one that is well established: the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody. It is beyond dispute that “probable cause provides legal justification for arresting a person suspected of crime, and for a brief period of detention to take the administrative steps incident to arrest.” Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U. S. 103 –114 (1975). Also uncontested is the “right on the part of the Government, always recognized under English and American law, to search the person of the accused when legally arrested.” Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 392 (1914) , overruled on other grounds, Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U. S. 643 (1961) . “The validity of the search of a person incident to a lawful arrest has been regarded as settled from its first enunciation, and has remained virtually unchallenged.” United States v. Robinson, 414 U. S. 218, 224 (1973) . Even in that context, the Court has been clear that individual suspicion is not necessary, because “[t]he constitutionality of a search incident to an arrest does not depend on whether there is any indication that the person ar-rested possesses weapons or evidence. The fact of a lawful arrest, standing alone, authorizes a search.” Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U. S. 31, 35 (1979) .

     The “routine administrative procedure[s] at a police sta-tion house incident to booking and jailing the suspect” derive from different origins and have different constitutional justifications than, say, the search of a place, Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U. S. 640, 643 (1983) ; for the search of a place not incident to an arrest depends on the “fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place,” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 238 (1983) . The interests are further different when an individual is formally processed into police custody. Then “the law is in the act of subjecting the body of the accused to its physical dominion.” People v. Chiagles, 237 N. Y. 193, 197, 142 N. E. 583, 584 (1923) (Cardozo, J.). When probable cause exists to remove an individual from the normal channels of society and hold him in legal custody, DNA identification plays a critical role in serving those interests.

     First, “[i]n every criminal case, it is known and must be known who has been arrested and who is being tried.” Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev., Humboldt Cty., 542 U. S. 177, 191 (2004) . An individual’s identity is more than just his name or Social Security number, and the government’s interest in identification goes beyond ensuring that the proper name is typed on the indictment. Identity has never been considered limited to the name on the arrestee’s birth certificate. In fact, a name is of little value compared to the real interest in identification at stake when an individual is brought into custody. “It is a well recognized aspect of criminal conduct that the per-petrator will take unusual steps to conceal not only his conduct, but also his identity. Disguises used while committing a crime may be supplemented or replaced by changed names, and even changed physical features.” Jones v. Murray, 962 F. 2d 302, 307 (CA4 1992). An “arrestee may be carrying a false ID or lie about his identity,” and “criminal history records . . . can be inaccurate or incomplete.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U. S. ___, ___ (2012) (slip op., at 16).

     A suspect’s criminal history is a critical part of his identity that officers should know when processing him for detention. It is a common occurrence that “[p]eople detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals. Hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh was stopped by a state trooper who noticed he was driving without a license plate. Police stopped serial killer Joel Rifkin for the same reason. One of the terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 14) (citations omitted). Police already seek this crucial identifying information. They use routine and accepted means as varied as comparing the suspect’s booking photograph to sketch artists’ depictions of persons of interest, showing his mugshot to potential witnesses, and of course making a computerized comparison of the arrestee’s fingerprints against electronic databases of known criminals and unsolved crimes. In this respect the only difference between DNA analysis and the accepted use of fingerprint databases is the unparalleled accuracy DNA provides.

     The task of identification necessarily entails searching public and police records based on the identifying information provided by the arrestee to see what is already known about him. The DNA collected from arrestees is an irrefutable identification of the person from whom it was taken. Like a fingerprint, the 13 CODIS loci are not themselves evidence of any particular crime, in the way that a drug test can by itself be evidence of illegal narcotics use. A DNA profile is useful to the police because it gives them a form of identification to search the records already in their valid possession. In this respect the use of DNA for identification is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect; or matching tattoos to known gang symbols to reveal a criminal affiliation; or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 19. DNA is another metric of identification used to connect the arrestee with his or her public persona, as reflected in records of his or her actions that are available to the police. Those records may be linked to the arrestee by a variety of relevant forms of identification, including name, alias, date and time of previous convictions and the name then used, photograph, Social Security number, or CODIS profile. These data, found in official records, are checked as a routine matter to produce a more comprehensive record of the suspect’s complete identity. Finding occurrences of the arrestee’s CODIS profile in outstanding cases is consistent with this common practice. It uses a different form of identification than a name or fingerprint, but its function is the same.

     Second, law enforcement officers bear a responsibility for ensuring that the custody of an arrestee does not create inordinate “risks for facility staff, for the existing detainee population, and for a new detainee.” Florence, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 10). DNA identification can provide untainted information to those charged with de-taining suspects and detaining the property of any felon. For these purposes officers must know the type of person whom they are detaining, and DNA allows them to make critical choices about how to proceed.

“Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder. On the other hand, knowing identity may help clear a suspect and al- low the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Identity may prove particularly important in [certain cases, such as] where the police are investigating what appears to be a domestic assault. Officers called to investigate domestic disputes need to know whom they are dealing with in order to assess the situation, the threat to their own safety, and possible danger to the potential victim.” Hiibel, supra, at 186.

Recognizing that a name alone cannot address this interest in identity, the Court has approved, for example, “a visual inspection for certain tattoos and other signs of gang affiliation as part of the intake process,” because “[t]he identification and isolation of gang members before they are admitted protects everyone.” Florence, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 11).

     Third, looking forward to future stages of criminal prosecution, “the Government has a substantial interest in ensuring that persons accused of crimes are available for trials.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U. S. 520, 534 (1979) . A person who is arrested for one offense but knows that he has yet to answer for some past crime may be more inclined to flee the instant charges, lest continued contact with the criminal justice system expose one or more other serious offenses. For example, a defendant who had committed a prior sexual assault might be inclined to flee on a burglary charge, knowing that in every State a DNA sample would be taken from him after his conviction on the burglary charge that would tie him to the more serious charge of rape. In addition to subverting the administration of justice with respect to the crime of arrest, this ties back to the interest in safety; for a detainee who absconds from custody presents a risk to law enforcement officers, other detainees, victims of previous crimes, witnesses, and society at large.

     Fourth, an arrestee’s past conduct is essential to an assessment of the danger he poses to the public, and this will inform a court’s determination whether the individual should be released on bail. “The government’s interest in preventing crime by arrestees is both legitimate and compelling.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U. S. 739, 749 (1987) . DNA identification of a suspect in a violent crime provides critical information to the police and judicial officials in making a determination of the arrestee’s future dangerousness. This inquiry always has entailed some scrutiny beyond the name on the defendant’s driver’s license. For example, Maryland law requires a judge to take into account not only “the nature and circumstances of the offense charged” but also “the defendant’s family ties, employment status and history, financial resources, reputation, character and mental condition, length of res-idence in the community.” 1 Md. Rules 4–216(f)(1)(A), (C) (2013). Knowing that the defendant is wanted for a previous violent crime based on DNA identification is especially probative of the court’s consideration of “the danger of the defendant to the alleged victim, another person, or the community.” Rule 4–216(f)(1)(G); see also 18 U. S. C. §3142 (2006 ed. and Supp. V) (similar requirements).

     This interest is not speculative. In considering laws to require collecting DNA from arrestees, government agencies around the Nation found evidence of numerous cases in which felony arrestees would have been identified as violent through DNA identification matching them to previous crimes but who later committed additional crimes because such identification was not used to detain them. See Denver’s Study on Preventable Crimes (2009) (three examples), online at Documents/Denver%27s%20Preventable%20Crimes%20 Study.pdf (all Internet materials as visited May 31, 2013, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file); Chi-cago’s Study on Preventable Crimes (2005) (five exam- ples), online at Arrestee_Database/Chicago%20Preventable%20Crimes- Final.pdf; Maryland Study on Preventable Crimes (2008) (three examples), online at Documents/MarylandDNAarresteestudy.pdf.

     Present capabilities make it possible to complete a DNA identification that provides information essential to determining whether a detained suspect can be released pending trial. See, e.g., States Brief 18, n. 10 (“DNA identification database samples have been processed in as few as two days in California, although around 30 days has been average”). Regardless of when the initial bail decision is made, release is not appropriate until a further determination is made as to the person’s identity in the sense not only of what his birth certificate states but also what other records and data disclose to give that identity more meaning in the whole context of who the person really is. And even when release is permitted, the background identity of the suspect is necessary for determining what conditions must be met before release is allowed. If release is authorized, it may take time for the conditions to be met, and so the time before actual release can be substantial. For example, in the federal system, defendants released conditionally are detained on average for 112 days; those released on unsecured bond for 37 days; on personal recognizance for 36 days; and on other financial conditions for 27 days. See Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics 45 (NCJ–213476, Dec. 2006) online at content/pub/pdf/cfjs04.pdf. During this entire period, ad-ditional and supplemental data establishing more about the person’s identity and background can provide critical information relevant to the conditions of release and whether to revisit an initial release determination. The facts of this case are illustrative. Though the record is not clear, if some thought were being given to releasing the respondent on bail on the gun charge, a release that would take weeks or months in any event, when the DNA report linked him to the prior rape, it would be relevant to the conditions of his release. The same would be true with a supplemental fingerprint report.

     Even if an arrestee is released on bail, development of DNA identification revealing the defendant’s unknown violent past can and should lead to the revocation of his conditional release. See 18 U. S. C. §3145(a) (providing for revocation of release); see also States Brief 11–12 (discussing examples where bail and diversion determinations were reversed after DNA identified the arrestee’s vio- lent history). Pretrial release of a person charged with a dangerous crime is a most serious responsibility. It is reason-able in all respects for the State to use an accepted database to determine if an arrestee is the object of suspicion in other serious crimes, suspicion that may provide a strong incentive for the arrestee to escape and flee.

     Finally, in the interests of justice, the identification of an arrestee as the perpetrator of some heinous crime may have the salutary effect of freeing a person wrongfully imprisoned for the same offense. “[P]rompt [DNA] testing . . . would speed up apprehension of criminals before they commit additional crimes, and prevent the grotesque detention of . . . innocent people.” J. Dwyer, P. Neufeld, & B. Scheck, Actual Innocence 245 (2000).

     Because proper processing of arrestees is so important and has consequences for every stage of the criminal process, the Court has recognized that the “governmen- tal interests underlying a station-house search of the ar-restee’s person and possessions may in some circumstances be even greater than those supporting a search imme-diately following arrest.” Lafayette, 462 U. S., at 645. Thus, the Court has been reluctant to circumscribe the authority of the police to conduct reasonable booking searches. For example, “[t]he standards traditionally governing a search incident to lawful arrest are not . . . commuted to the stricter Terry standards.” Robinson, 414 U. S., at 234. Nor are these interests in identifica- tion served only by a search of the arrestee himself. “[I]nspection of an arrestee’s personal property may assist the police in ascertaining or verifying his identity.” Lafayette, supra, at 646. And though the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination is not, as a general rule, governed by a reasonableness standard, the Court has held that “questions . . . reasonably related to the police’s administrative concerns . . . fall outside the protections of Miranda [v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966) ] and the answers thereto need not be suppressed.” Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U. S. 582 –602 (1990).


     DNA identification represents an important advance in the techniques used by law enforcement to serve le-gitimate police concerns for as long as there have been arrests, concerns the courts have acknowledged and approved for more than a century. Law enforcement agencies routinely have used scientific advancements in their standard procedures for the identification of arrestees. “Police had been using photography to capture the faces of criminals almost since its invention.” S. Cole, Suspect Identities 20 (2001). Courts did not dispute that practice, concluding that a “sheriff in making an arrest for a felony on a warrant has the right to exercise a discretion . . . , [if] he should deem it necessary to the safe-keeping of a prisoner, and to prevent his escape, or to enable him the more readily to retake the prisoner if he should escape, to take his photograph.” State ex rel. Bruns v. Clausmier, 154 Ind. 599, 601, 603, 57 N. E. 541, 542 (1900). By the time that it had become “the daily practice of the police officers and detectives of crime to use photographic pictures for the discovery and identification of criminals,” the courts likewise had come to the conclusion that “it would be [a] matter of regret to have its use unduly restricted upon any fanciful theory or constitutional privilege.” Shaffer v. United States, 24 App. D. C. 417, 426 (1904).

     Beginning in 1887, some police adopted more exacting means to identify arrestees, using the system of precise physical measurements pioneered by the French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon. Bertillon identification consisted of 10 measurements of the arrestee’s body, along with a “scientific analysis of the features of the face and an exact anatomical localization of the various scars, marks, &c., of the body.” Defense of the Bertillon System, N. Y. Times, Jan. 20, 1896, p. 3. “[W]hen a prisoner was brought in, his photograph was taken according to the Bertillon system, and his body measurements were then made. The measurements were made . . . and noted down on the back of a card or a blotter, and the photograph of the prisoner was expected to be placed on the card. This card, therefore, furnished both the likeness and description of the prisoner, and was placed in the rogues’ gallery, and copies were sent to various cities where similar records were kept.” People ex rel. Jones v. Diehl, 53 App. Div. 645, 646, 65 N. Y. S. 801, 802 (1900). As in the present case, the point of taking this information about each arrestee was not limited to verifying that the proper name was on the indictment. These procedures were used to “facilitate the recapture of escaped prisoners,” to aid “the investigation of their past records and personal history,” and “to preserve the means of identification for . . . fu- ture supervision after discharge.” Hodgeman v. Olsen, 86 Wash. 615, 619, 150 P. 1122, 1124 (1915); see also McGovern v. Van Riper, 137 N. J. Eq. 24, 33–34, 43 A. 2d 514, 519 (Ch. 1945) (“[C]riminal identification is said to have two main purposes: (1) The identification of the accused as the person who committed the crime for which he is being held; and, (2) the identification of the accused as the same person who has been previously charged with, or convicted of, other offenses against the criminal law”).

     Perhaps the most direct historical analogue to the DNA technology used to identify respondent is the familiar practice of fingerprinting arrestees. From the advent of this technique, courts had no trouble determining that fingerprinting was a natural part of “the administrative steps incident to arrest.” County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U. S. 44, 58 (1991) . In the seminal case of United States v. Kelly, 55 F. 2d 67 (CA2 1932), Judge Augustus Hand wrote that routine fingerprinting did not violate the Fourth Amendment precisely because it fit within the accepted means of processing an arrestee into custody:

     “Finger printing seems to be no more than an exten-sion of methods of identification long used in dealing with persons under arrest for real or supposed vio-lations of the criminal laws. It is known to be a very certain means devised by modern science to reach the desired end, and has become especially important in a time when increased population and vast aggregations of people in urban centers have rendered the notoriety of the individual in the community no longer a ready means of identification.

.     .     .     .     .

     “We find no ground in reason or authority for interfering with a method of identifying persons charged with crime which has now become widely known and frequently practiced.” Id., at 69–70.

By the middle of the 20th century, it was considered “elementary that a person in lawful custody may be required to submit to photographing and fingerprinting as part of routine identification processes.” Smith v. United States, 324 F. 2d 879, 882 (CADC 1963) (Burger, J.) (citations omitted).

     DNA identification is an advanced technique superior to fingerprinting in many ways, so much so that to insist on fingerprints as the norm would make little sense to either the forensic expert or a layperson. The additional intrusion upon the arrestee’s privacy beyond that associated with fingerprinting is not significant, see Part V, infra, and DNA is a markedly more accurate form of identifying arrestees. A suspect who has changed his facial features to evade photographic identification or even one who has undertaken the more arduous task of altering his fingerprints cannot escape the revealing power of his DNA.

     The respondent’s primary objection to this analogy is that DNA identification is not as fast as fingerprinting, and so it should not be considered to be the 21st-century equivalent. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 53. But rapid analysis of fingerprints is itself of recent vintage. The FBI’s vaunted Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) was only “launched on July 28, 1999. Prior to this time, the processing of . . . fingerprint submissions was largely a manual, labor-intensive process, taking weeks or months to process a single submission.” Federal Bureau of Investigation, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, online at fingerprints_biometrics/iafis/iafis. It was not the advent of this technology that rendered fingerprint analysis constitutional in a single moment. The question of how long it takes to process identifying information obtained from a valid search goes only to the efficacy of the search for its purpose of prompt identification, not the constitutionality of the search. Cf. Ontario v. Quon, 560 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 15). Given the importance of DNA in the identification of police records pertaining to arrestees and the need to refine and confirm that identity for its important bearing on the decision to continue release on bail or to impose of new conditions, DNA serves an essential purpose despite the existence of delays such as the one that occurred in this case. Even so, the delay in processing DNA from arrestees is being reduced to a substantial degree by rapid technical advances. See, e.g., At-torney General DeWine Announces Significant Drop in DNA Turnaround Time (Jan. 4, 2013) (DNA processing time reduced from 125 days in 2010 to 20 days in 2012), online at 2013/Attorney-General-DeWine-Announces-Significant- Drop; Gov. Jindal Announces Elimination of DNA Backlog, DNA Unit Now Operating in Real Time (Nov. 17, 2011) (average DNA report time reduced from a year or more in 2009 to 20 days in 2011), online at http:// And the FBI has already begun testing devices that will enable police to process the DNA of arrestees within 90 minutes. See Brief for National District Attorneys Association as Amicus Curiae 20–21; Tr. of Oral Arg. 17. An assessment and understanding of the reasonableness of this minimally invasive search of a person detained for a serious crime should take account of these technical advances. Just as fingerprinting was constitutional for generations prior to the introduction of IAFIS, DNA identification of arrestees is a permissible tool of law enforcement today. New technology will only further improve its speed and therefore its effectiveness. And, as noted above, actual release of a serious offender as a routine matter takes weeks or months in any event. By identifying not only who the arrestee is but also what other available records disclose about his past to show who he is, the police can ensure that they have the proper person under arrest and that they have made the necessary arrangements for his custody; and, just as important, they can also prevent suspicion against or prosecution of the innocent.

     In sum, there can be little reason to question “the legitimate interest of the government in knowing for an absolute certainty the identity of the person arrested, in knowing whether he is wanted elsewhere, and in ensuring his identification in the event he flees prosecution.” 3 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure §5.3(c), p. 216 (5th ed. 2012). To that end, courts have confirmed that the Fourth Amendment allows police to take certain routine “administrative steps incident to arrest—i.e., . . . book[ing], photograph[ing], and fingerprint[ing].” McLaughlin, 500 U. S., at 58. DNA identification of arrestees, of the type approved by the Maryland statute here at issue, is “no more than an extension of methods of identification long used in dealing with persons under arrest.” Kelly, 55 F.  2d, at 69. In the balance of reasonableness required by the Fourth Amendment, therefore, the Court must give great weight both to the significant government interest at stake in the identification of arrestees and to the unmatched potential of DNA identification to serve that interest.



     By comparison to this substantial government interest and the unique effectiveness of DNA identification, the intrusion of a cheek swab to obtain a DNA sample is a minimal one. True, a significant government interest does not alone suffice to justify a search. The government interest must outweigh the degree to which the search in-vades an individual’s legitimate expectations of privacy. In considering those expectations in this case, however, the necessary predicate of a valid arrest for a serious offense is fundamental. “Although the underlying command of the Fourth Amendment is always that searches and seizures be reasonable, what is reasonable depends on the context within which a search takes place.” New Jersey v. T. L. O., 469 U. S. 325, 337 (1985) . “[T]he legitimacy of certain privacy expectations vis-à-vis the State may depend upon the individual’s legal relationship with the State.” Vernonia School Dist. 47J, 515 U. S., at 654.

     The reasonableness of any search must be considered in the context of the person’s legitimate expectations of privacy. For example, when weighing the invasiveness of urinalysis of high school athletes, the Court noted that “[l]egitimate privacy expectations are even less with regard to student athletes. . . . Public school locker rooms, the usual sites for these activities, are not notable for the privacy they afford.” Id., at 657. Likewise, the Court has used a context-specific benchmark inapplicable to the public at large when “the expectations of privacy of covered employees are diminished by reason of their participa-tion in an industry that is regulated pervasively,” Skinner, 489 U. S., at 627, or when “the ‘operational realities of the workplace’ may render entirely reasonable certain work-related intrusions by supervisors and co-workers that might be viewed as unreasonable in other contexts,” Von Raab, 489 U. S., at 671.

     The expectations of privacy of an individual taken into police custody “necessarily [are] of a diminished scope.” Bell, 441 U. S., at 557. “[B]oth the person and the property in his immediate possession may be searched at the station house.” United States v. Edwards, 415 U. S. 800, 803 (1974) . A search of the detainee’s person when he is booked into custody may “ ‘involve a relatively extensive exploration,’ ” Robinson, 414 U. S., at 227, including “requir[ing] at least some detainees to lift their genitals or cough in a squatting position,” Florence, 566 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 13).

     In this critical respect, the search here at issue differs from the sort of programmatic searches of either the public at large or a particular class of regulated but otherwise law-abiding citizens that the Court has previously labeled as “ ‘special needs’ ” searches. Chandler v. Miller, 520 U. S. 305, 314 (1997) . When the police stop a motorist at a checkpoint, see Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U. S. 32 (2000) , or test a political candidate for illegal narcotics, see Chandler, supra, they intrude upon substantial expectations of privacy. So the Court has insisted on some purpose other than “to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing” to justify these searches in the absence of individualized suspicion. Edmond, supra, at 38. Once an individual has been arrested on probable cause for a dangerous offense that may require detention before trial, however, his or her expectations of privacy and freedom from police scrutiny are reduced. DNA identification like that at issue here thus does not require consideration of any unique needs that would be required to justify searching the average citizen. The special needs cases, though in full accord with the result reached here, do not have a direct bearing on the issues presented in this case, because unlike the search of a citizen who has not been suspected of a wrong, a detainee has a reduced expectation of privacy.

     The reasonableness inquiry here considers two other circumstances in which the Court has held that particularized suspicion is not categorically required: “diminished expectations of privacy [and] minimal intrusions.” McArthur, 531 U. S., at 330. This is not to suggest that any search is acceptable solely because a person is in custody. Some searches, such as invasive surgery, see Winston, 470 U. S. 753 , or a search of the arrestee’s home, see Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752 (1969) , involve either greater intrusions or higher expectations of privacy than are present in this case. In those situations, when the Court must “balance the privacy-related and law enforcement-related concerns to determine if the intrusion was rea-sonable,” McArthur, supra, at 331, the privacy-related concerns are weighty enough that the search may require a warrant, notwithstanding the diminished expectations of privacy of the arrestee.

     Here, by contrast to the approved standard procedures incident to any arrest detailed above, a buccal swab involves an even more brief and still minimal intrusion. A gentle rub along the inside of the cheek does not break the skin, and it “involves virtually no risk, trauma, or pain.” Schmerber, 384 U. S., at 771. “A crucial factor in analyzing the magnitude of the intrusion . . . is the extent to which the procedure may threaten the safety or health of the individual,” Winston, supra, at 761, and nothing suggests that a buccal swab poses any physical danger whatsoever. A brief intrusion of an arrestee’s person is subject to the Fourth Amendment, but a swab of this nature does not increase the indignity already attendant to normal incidents of arrest.


     In addition the processing of respondent’s DNA sam-ple’s 13 CODIS loci did not intrude on respondent’s privacy in a way that would make his DNA identification unconstitutional.

     First, as already noted, the CODIS loci come from noncoding parts of the DNA that do not reveal the genetic traits of the arrestee. While science can always progress further, and those progressions may have Fourth Amendment consequences, alleles at the CODIS loci “are not at present revealing information beyond identification.” Katsanis & Wagner, Characterization of the Standard and Recommended CODIS Markers, 58 J. Forensic Sci. S169, S171 (2013). The argument that the testing at issue in this case reveals any private medical information at all is open to dispute.

     And even if non-coding alleles could provide some information, they are not in fact tested for that end. It is undisputed that law enforcement officers analyze DNA for the sole purpose of generating a unique identifying number against which future samples may be matched. This parallels a similar safeguard based on actual practice in the school drug-testing context, where the Court deemed it “significant that the tests at issue here look only for drugs, and not for whether the student is, for example, epileptic, pregnant, or diabetic.” Vernonia School Dist. 47J, 515 U. S., at 658. If in the future police analyze samples to determine, for instance, an arrestee’s predisposition for a particular disease or other hereditary factors not relevant to identity, that case would present additional privacy concerns not present here.

     Finally, the Act provides statutory protections that guard against further invasion of privacy. As noted above, the Act requires that “[o]nly DNA records that directly relate to the identification of individuals shall be collected and stored.” Md. Pub. Saf. Code Ann. §2–505(b)(1). No purpose other than identification is permissible: “A person may not willfully test a DNA sample for information that does not relate to the identification of individuals as specified in this subtitle.” §2–512(c). This Court has noted often that “a ‘statutory or regulatory duty to avoid unwarranted disclosures’ generally allays . . . privacy concerns.” NASA v. Nelson, 562 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (slip op., at 20) (quoting Whalen v. Roe, 429 U. S. 589, 605 (1977) ). The Court need not speculate about the risks posed “by a system that did not contain comparable security provisions.” Id., at 606. In light of the scientific and statutory safeguards, once respondent’s DNA was lawfully collected the STR analysis of respondent’s DNA pursuant to CODIS procedures did not amount to a significant invasion of privacy that would render the DNA identification impermissible under the Fourth Amendment.

*  *  *

     In light of the context of a valid arrest supported by probable cause respondent’s expectations of privacy were not offended by the minor intrusion of a brief swab of his cheeks. By contrast, that same context of arrest gives rise to significant state interests in identifying respondent not only so that the proper name can be attached to his charges but also so that the criminal justice system can make informed decisions concerning pretrial custody. Upon these considerations the Court concludes that DNA identification of arrestees is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure. When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

     The judgment of the Court of Appeals of Maryland is reversed.

It is so ordered.

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